Hurry up and make an appointment for that

This has been a good week. Changes are already happening and we are making progress. First, I need to say that M has an amazing family. I thought my family was pretty awesome, but the welcome and help we’ve received so far is really huge. Tante H is letting us use her address to get a lot of the processes started. This means a lot because we need to register with so many different places and nothing gets started without an address.

So now that we’ve registered with the city saying we have an address, M made it to the employment office to register and upload his resume. He will be assigned a councilor and they will mail him an appointment time. (Yes, snail mail!) They already sent him a letter saying he needs his tax id number and retirement number. We happened to be in Berlin where the retirement main office is this week so we went down and got a number right away! (Fastest thing we’ve done so far). Tax id is theoretically on its way too. Hopefully we can still get an appointment with the councilor in the next week.

Then we decided we needed a local bank account. We tossed the kids in the stroller and walked to the bank. Yeah, we need an appointment for that. Their computers were down so they told us to call the main number. The main number transferred us back to the branch office. Whose computers were still down. We finally scheduled an appointment for this week Thursday.

I also have an appointment on Thursday with a local school principal to register R for 2nd grade. Schools are staggered with their summer breaks. Düsseldorf is one of the latest of them all and school ends this week on July 15. They have 6 weeks and then they’ll start up again beginning of September. I’m hoping that if I talk to the principal, I can get R set up for a tutor before school starts or at least after school every day for the first quarter.

Meanwhile, R is watching all these kids zoom by the house with their bikes. We never had a ton of kids in our last neighborhood and her bike was always a source of argument. Now she was begging for one. Someone told me of Ebay kleinanzeigen (little ebay), which is similar to craigslist. So I got online and found a purple bike with the intent to teach my daughter to ride. I admit, I had visions of me running along side of her and cheering as she got the hang of it. Nope. She got on and took off. Like she knew how to ride the whole time.

Look at her go!

We celebrated the 4th of July by cooking our family an “American” dinner. We had sliders and hotdogs, cucumber salad and corn on the cob (which came cooked and vacuumed sealed). But everyone enjoyed it and we had a good time. Missed the fireworks though.

Now that we had all our appointments scheduled, we decided we should take off to Berlin and do some more exploring. We hoped on the ICE train on Wednesday and made it here in 4 hours. It was pretty cool. We quickly figured out the subway and are staying in a suburb called Wedding. It’s a nice little apartment with 2 bedrooms and an elevator (we’re on the 6th floor!).

That’s 155 miles per hour

We’ve really been enjoying Berlin. We went to the Zoo the first day. It was only 73! I freely admit it was the first day we’ve been cold. I enjoyed it for about an hour or so. Next day I started to pack all of our sweaters. The zoo was awesome; we saw hippos, elephants, zebras and lots of monkeys. The playground at the zoo was equally amazing and we spent quite a bit of time exploring that as well.

We’ve done a boat cruise on the River Spree (pronounced spray), checked out a huge park with playground. We walked around the Alexanderplatz and looked up at the TV tower. We found a section of the Berlin wall.  I took pictures of the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag and finally walked through the Holocaust memorial. Then we even ate Indian for lunch. I am certainly in my element with the amount of exploring we’ve done and am so excited I’ve been able to show my family so many of the places I’ve been to on tours.

Just like the legos!
Rowan had to really think about how people could live behind a wall.
Very powerful to walk through.
Alexanderplatz

Sightseeing, learning curve and family

This has been a great week. We have really focused on our kids this week and trying to learn new things. The majority of this week was in Russelsheim and exploring the surrounding area. We took the kids into Mainz on Tuesday. First things first, we bought a stroller knowing that Europe is A LOT more walking then our kids are use to. It’s got a nice little basket underneath it so we can carry all those extra things kids need – drinks, snacks, diapers…. I’m loving it, it’s green. 😀

I got to take my family to the Dom (Cathedral) in Mainz and lit candles with the kids. This was very special for me, as I have toured downtown Mainz all last year and lit candles for my children each time I was in the Dom.   They prayed for all their cousins. R though the church was a little creepy, but had a great time exploring through the crypts and some the side areas. So it must not have been too bad.

Lighting candles in Mainz Dom

Then I took them all through Gutenberg’s museum. We had prepared for this by reading Geronimo Stilton’s book “The Weird Book Machine”. I had taken several photos of the museum, so they excitedly wandered through the whole museum and were suitably impressed with the 500-year-old bibles. M liked it too!

I tried doing some grocery shopping for ourselves this week. There’s a learning curve to this too. I thought I would make schnitzel with gravy. Except I didn’t buy gravy, I bought gelatin to make gravy from drippings. Good thing it didn’t really have a taste, so I didn’t ruin dinner. Then M wanted to try different beers. So I grabbed a bottle to try. It’s ½ beer ½ lemonade. A tad on the sweet side, not really beer like. I figure there will be more mistakes in the future as we figure this all out!

Thursday found us in Frankfurt. We had aimed to go to the Children’s museum thinking it was like the one in Phoenix. It’s not. It’s more of an Activity center and there were no activities going on. So that part was a bit of a bust. But we found an awesome park along the river and a children’s carnival on the other bank. It was super cheap! Each ride was 1 euro, Rowan got her face painted and the kids each got a snack. Think I spent 12 euros total! And train rides there and back, which is its own exciting adventure.

Carnival on the Main River Frankfurt
Cookies!

Friday we rented a car and packed all of our stuff. It didn’t fit. Markus had to go a store and buy tie –downs so we could put the largest suitcases on top of the car. Even then, we all had luggage under our feet and between the kids and up to the ceiling in the trunk. We only drove a couple of hours north to Baumberg, a suburb of Düsseldorf. Here is some family from M and we were lucky to stay here last October for vacation too. All the cousins came over, we ate a huge Italian meal and sat outside enjoying the beautiful 80 degree weather and the late sun set at 10pm.

Yup. The car is a tad full.

Saturday found us in Bochum visiting more family and parks. Sunday we went to the Jesus Haus, that M’s grandfather helped found. R did awesome in Sunday School. There was another little girl who spoke English and took her under her wing. K made it about half way through the service before realizing no one could understand him and panicked. We explored another huge park in the afternoon and topped the day off with gelato. It’s going to be hard to “settle down” after all this vacation lifestyle.

We have arrived!

What a whirlwind week. We sold the truck on Monday, packed up the cabin and said goodbye to Flagstaff on Tuesday. Stayed with friends who are watching our furbabies. Then had to say goodbye to our dear friends and all of our furbabies again. The cats will at some point be reunited with us, but we are looking at a long time in between. Since we didn’t have a firm destination, we couldn’t find a way for any of our pets to come with us until later. Then stayed with my brother and his family until we flew.

We were blessed to enjoy family and friends this week. We felt very loved and cared for all week. Friday morning saw us attempting to spread the weight of our stuff out into 2 suitcases, 2 hiking backpacks, 4 duffel bags, 4 carry-on rollers and 4 backpacks. My brother and his wife generously wore out the kids in the pool and trampoline before we left. My brother took us to the airport where M’s whole clan came to send us off.

All of our luggage

The flight was uneventful. K hadn’t napped, so he fell asleep right away and woke up right before they served breakfast. R loved being able to watch movies on the TV and mom let her stay up until midnight to help with the jet lag. Then she fell asleep until just before we landed. I binged watched movies. I need about 3 more trips to really catch up for the year, but I feel like I got a good dose of Marvel. Lol

Through the airport

We are staying in Russelsheim for this week. We found our studio apartment quite easily. It’s in a fantastic location! We are in the middle of town, 5 minute walk to the train station, 5 minutes from the Main River, 5 minutes from a park and the bakery and grocery store are right around the corner. (Yes, those are separate stores.)

We got up Sunday morning… well, we got up at 2 am and played for about 3 hours before we all crashed at 5 am. Then we “got up” at 11 am. Jet leg is so fun. We decided to wander around the area and discovered a huge car show down by the Main River. So much fun! Kids played at the park, we ate brats and gelato, and we looked at all the cars, took a spin on a carousel and then watched the swans in the river. We came back for a nap and then enjoyed pizza outside on a pedestrian street. It was a great day!

Watching the Swans on the Main River

Feeling better and getting excited!

This has been a good week. Relaxing out in the woods, visiting with family and good friends, and finally getting on antibiotics. It’s been a week of rest and I’m glad we planned the extra time in on this side of the pond.

We have also spent our days hunting down reception for internet and simple phone calls. We have always enjoyed staying out in the woods for the novelty of unplugging. However, that is not so much of a novelty when we are trying to finalize banking, translate documents, and sell our last car. So we’ve headed into Flagstaff, dropped M off at the library to work and the kids and I have found parks, gone shopping at the NAU bookstore and found things to keep us occupied.

We have also been blessed with friends who are willing to make the drive north to see us one last time. A dear friend came for lunch on Wednesday so the kids could play and we wandered around downtown. My best friend and her family came to visit the weekend and the kids had a blast watching it rain, playing in the mud, watching Incredibles 2 and we all had a very competitive game of Clue Junior! My favorite part was still playing cards, but I’m weird like that! Lol

Father’s day was spent with the head of the Linke clan. We ate good German food, played in a huge pool with waterslides and diving boards. K loved the toddler area, and R was super brave going down the waterslide multiple times and jumping off the diving board and even jumped off the high board! She dared me to jump too and mom showed her how to dive off the board. A good time was had by all!

It still feels like vacation. It still blows my mind that we leave, permanently to Germany this Friday. We keep wandering around telling ourselves that the adventure has begun, and so far I’m having a good time.

Our neighbors this week:

It’s over and just begun

It’s official. We are no longer Arizona homeowners. This past week was a week of hard goodbyes. We said goodbye (temporarily) to our beloved cats as they stay with an amazing friend who will bring them back to us. We said goodbye to our neighbors, which was really the best neighborhood I’ve lived in a long time, wonderful people. We said goodbye to our stuff as it gets shipped to Germany on the slow boat. And we said goodbye to our house.

They say that moving is one of the most stressful things a couple can do. The good news is that we are a united front on wanting this move, encouraging our children and getting excited for departure. Yet, the stress of the unknown is still there and we have crashed and burned this weekend all with terrible colds. We are staying in Flagstaff and we were really blessed with our family visiting us this weekend. They took such good care of us while we continue to sleep our way back into good health.

I think leaving family and friends is definitely the hardest part of this move. We have an awesome connection with our family and frequently get to see both sides of our siblings. It is the part I’ve struggled with the most, separating my kids from cousins they love. But, I know in my heart this is the right thing to do. They are blessed to have more second cousins in Germany they get to know, and first cousins in Slovakia. We will find friends and get to know family better. And I love the fact we can face time family every week for free.

So for now, we are focused on wrapping up in Arizona. We are focused on getting healthy for our Grand European tour. And we are fully focused on our children as we jump in with both feet!

It’s ok to feel ….. and find a balance.

Oh so many emotions this week. It’s the last week in the house. This house I have loved and hated. This house that somewhere along the line became my home. I will miss the pool. I’m happy to see the end of packing and selling. I am sad to leave family and friends. I’m so excited to live in Europe.

The kids are feeling it. R has been sad to say goodbye to her friends. K isn’t sleeping and we are solidly back into diapers. But we have our moments of excitement too. What will our new rooms look like? How should we decorate?   R is looking forward to gymnastics again in the fall. K has only been talking about the different kinds of trash trucks. But hey, it makes him happy. Lol

We’ve been trying to balance our days. Time to play and visit with family and friends. Time to pack 5 more boxes and haul stuff outside for the last garage sale. They are long days. Good days. Almost doesn’t feel like we are leaving because we are still running errands, doing play dates, getting milk… except we have no more dishes to eat on.

I’ve been telling the kids it’s ok. It’s ok to feel happy. It’s ok to feel sad. It’s ok to be excited. It’s ok to miss people. It’s all in finding a balance.

A purge like no other

I’ve moved a lot growing up. My dad moved up in corporate America, and each promotion felt like it came with a new town. I’ve tallied it up. This is my 20th move. (Maybe there was a few more in Flagstaff for college). But we’ll go with 20 big moves in my lifetime.

I thought I had this down pat. Sell a few things. Go through your closet. Need to have a garage sale or two. Then you pack all your things into boxes and rent the Uhaul or make a few drives – depending on how far you’re going.

This move is … nothing … like … that! This move has been piles. This pile needs to go into storage. Is it really something I need to keep for 7-10 years? This pile I need to pack into my suitcase so we can wander around Europe for 2 months. How many toys and books should we (can we) pack in a suitcase? And the last pile is shipment. We are trying to squeeze everything into 4x4x6 feet. I have it taped up on the wall. I’m still looking around my house wondering; maybe I can squeeze that into the shipment? What about this pile? Can it go too? And because part of the package I paid for was the movers to pack my stuff, I’m not boxing anything. It’s just sitting in piles in K’s bedroom. Which in some ways is nice because it’s one less thing to worry about. And in other ways it’s driving me nuts, I won’t know if I hit that 100 cubic feet until the day they pack it into boxes.   And do they know how to really cram a box like I do?

Meanwhile, I spend my time just purging accumulated stuff. Where did all this stuff come from? Most of the purge is reactive. Oh, I sold that shelf? Guess I should clear it off. 4 month of selling things online and I still fret that I can shovel the rest of it out in the next 3.5 weeks. Wish me luck! The countdown continues.

This is what 109 cubic feet of stuff looks like:

Our move to Germany

About a year ago, my husband came home with a crazy idea. Let’s move to Germany. Why you ask? Well, he’s a German citizen, so are the kids. I’ve been blessed to travel there for work for many years and love it. It was a good kind of crazy as far as ideas go. Then we thought, well, why not? Kids are young, changes can happen, our parents are in good health. We should really try this! We walked around for months asking each other if we were serious and if we really wanted to make the leap.

In March this year, everything just clicked. Nothing in particular happened, just – life is short. We were going to do this, just because we wanted to! So we started taking all the necessary steps to make such a large move happen. It really all started out as a wild dream, but we are now in the process of making everything happen.

People have been amazed that we are taking such a giant leap of faith. And several suggested I blog about the experiences. I thought it was a good idea and also a way to let out thoughts as we heave through this huge move.

Most people begin asking me if we are military. Nope. Then they ask if our job is moving us across the pond. Nope. In fact, we are doing all of this in hopes that we get a job when we get there. Yes, you read that right. My husband, I’ll call him M, has been putting out resumes but we haven’t had a job offer yet. How’s that for positive thinking? We have a couple of positive things in our corner. M is a civil engineer. Germany’s websites are posting over 17,000 available jobs for civil engineers alone. And most friends and family we’ve talked to tell us that once we are there and available for interviews, we hope to find something relatively quick.

People think this leap of faith is the hard part. Not really. It’s the exciting part. Getting to live in Germany and sharing the culture and the world with my children is the part that drives me now. The hard part has been dismantling our household stuff that we’ve been collecting for the past 12 years, selling it off piece by piece. The hard part is watching my children say goodbye to half their toys, or their beloved swing set. Ok, I will admit shoveling out my closet actually felt rather good. But I still haven’t posted the couch because it’s the most comfortable thing I’ve ever sat and slept on. Is it ridiculous I’ll miss a couch?

We are taking a few things. I didn’t want the kids to feel like they lost every single toy to this move. That would only lead to resentment. So we have hired a shipping company to come in and we are shipping 100 cubic feet. I thought that sounded like so much stuff! It’s not. It’s 4 feet x 4 feet x 6 feet. Once you start looking at how much stuff you have to fit into that small size, it feels about as small as it sounds. I admit I’ve gotten a bit creative though. This is all about space and not weight. So I’ve gotten a bunch of vacuum seal bags for all of our clothes – and stuffed animals!! That has really shrunk everything down to very heavy size. Creativity is the key!

Right now, we have sold the house and quite a bit of our stuff out of the house. We have piles in every room – to be sold, to be put into storage and to shove into a suitcase. It’s a work in progress and I can only take it one day at a time. 4 weeks before we leave our house and 6 weeks before we depart. But as I tell all my travelers: “It’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey.”

Interview with Paola Layton

We are very happy to have student feedback from our latest Speaker, Prof. Dr. Albrecht Classen. The students at German School Phoenix were particularly impressed with his talk and we were able to interview Paola Leyton for her honest opinions. Paola is a new student at German School Phoenix. She had previously studied German in Zurich and Chile, but is now continuing her language learning with us.

This was the first speaker Paola had seen. In the past, we have invited local Germans, Professors and even the Honorary German Consulate to speak to our students. Paola felt that Prof. Dr. Classen’s lecture was “very simple, very open and sincere”. He spoke at great length about the linguistic relationship between English and German and how it has evolved. For example, in northern Germany there are many words that are pronounced very similar in English. Where in the south of Germany, the pronunciation takes on a very different dialect and linguists find fewer English sounds. Paola tells us that “[she] enjoyed everything. He did a good summary about what German means. [I was] able to refresh my memory and hopefully start speaking [German] again.”

Many Thanks to Paola Layton for taking the time to answer all our questions!

Dr. Albrecht Classen, Guest Speaker

Imagine that you’re told to attend a presentation made by a distinguished professor who specializes in the history of medieval and early modern German and European literature and culture from about 800 to 1800. Would you expect to be bored by a dry, serious presentation?

If that distinguished professor is Dr. Albrecht Classen, then that expectation would be wrong. Very wrong.   Just ask any of the students, faculty and friends of German School Phoenix who were fortunate to meet Dr. Classen on Saturday, January 27th. Everyone there was captivated by his enthusiasm, inspired by his energy, and disappointed when his presentation had to come to an end.

Dr. Classen talked to the group about the history and development of European languages and the relationship between English and German.   During his visit to classrooms before the presentation, he emphasized the importance of understanding history and appreciating what it can teach us about the present.

Currently serving as University Distinguished Professor and Undergraduate Advisor in the Department of German Studies at the University of Arizona, Dr. Classen has studied at several universities in Germany, Spain, Great Britain and the United States. For more information about Dr. Classen’s background and publications, please visit http://aclassen.faculty.arizona.edu/.